Machine learning uncovers potential new TB drugs

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Machine learning is a computational tool used by many biologists to analyze huge amounts of data, helping them to identify potential new drugs. MIT researchers have now incorporated a new feature into these types of machine-learning algorithms, improving their prediction-making ability.

Using this new approach, which allows computer models to account for uncertainty in the data they’re analyzing, the MIT team identified several promising compounds that target a protein required by the bacteria that cause tuberculosis.

This method, which has previously been used by computer scientists but has not taken off in biology, could also prove useful in protein design and many other fields of biology, says Bonnie Berger, the Simons Professor of Mathematics and head of the Computation and Biology group in MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).

“This technique is part of a known subfield of machine learning, but people have not brought it to biology,” Berger says. “This is a paradigm shift, and is absolutely how biological exploration should be done.”

Berger and Bryan Bryson, an assistant professor of biological engineering at MIT and a member of the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard, are the senior authors of the study, which …

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